Attack on Sydney Harbour

Attack on Sydney Harbour

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Attack on Sydney Harbour
partof=the Battle for Australia during World War II

caption=1 June 1942. A Japanese Ko-hyoteki class midget submarine, believed to be Midget No. 14, is raised from Sydney Harbour
date=31 May – 8 June 1942
place=Sydney Harbour, Sydney, Australia
result=Japanese victory
combatant1= flag|Australia
flag|United States|1912
flag|United Kingdom
combatant2=flagicon|Japan|alt Empire of Japan
commander1= Gerard Muirhead-Gould
commander2= Hankyu Sasaki
strength1= 2 heavy cruisers,
1 light cruiser,
2 armed merchant cruisers,
3 destroyers,
2 corvettes,
1 submarine,
2 anti-submarine vessels,
6 channel patrol boats
strength2= 5 fleet submarines,
3 midget submarines
casualties1= Main attack:
1 depot ship sunk,
21 killed
Secondary operations:
3 merchant vessels sunk,
1 fighter aircraft lost,
50 killed
casualties2= 3 midget submarines,
2 spotter planes lost,
6 killed
In late May and early June 1942, during World War II, submarines belonging to the Imperial Japanese Navy made a series of attacks on the cities of Sydney and Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. On the night of 31 May–1 June, three "Ko-hyoteki" class midget submarines, each with a two-member crew, entered Sydney Harbour to sink Allied warships. After being detected and attacked, the crews of two of the midget submarines scuttled their boats and committed suicide without engaging Allied vessels. The third attempted to torpedo the heavy cruiser USS "Chicago" but instead sank the converted ferry HMAS "Kuttabul", killing 21 sailors. This midget submarine then disappeared, its fate remaining a mystery until 2006, when amateur scuba divers discovered the wreck off Sydney's northern beaches.

Immediately following the raid the five Japanese fleet submarines that carried the midgets to Australia embarked on a campaign to disrupt merchant shipping in eastern Australian waters. Over the next month the submarines attacked at least seven merchant vessels, sinking three. As part of this campaign, during the early morning of 8 June two of the submarines bombarded the ports of Sydney and Newcastle.

The midget submarine attacks and bombardments are among the best-known examples of Axis naval activity in Australian waters during World War II and represent the only attacks on either city. The physical effects were minimal: the Japanese had intended the destruction of several major warships, but only sank an unarmed depot ship. The bombardments also failed to damage any significant targets. The main impact was psychological and popular fear of an impending invasion forced the Australian military to upgrade defences. The military also initiated convoy operations to protect merchant shipping.



The Imperial Japanese Navy originally intended to use six submarines in the attack on Sydney Harbour: "B1" type submarines "I-21", "I-27", "I-28", and "I-29", and "C1" type submarines "I-22" and "I-24".Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 161] ["Type B1",; "Type C1",] The six submarines made up the Eastern Attack Group of the 8th Submarine Squadron, under the command of Captain Hankyu Sasaki.Carruthers, Steven (2006). "Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942", p 59]

Sometime in late April or early May 1942, "I-21" and "I-29", each of which carried a Yokosuka E14Y1 Glen floatplane for aerial reconnaissance, reconnoitred various Australasian harbours in order to select the ones most vulnerable to attack by midget submarines.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 163] "I-21" scouted Nouméa in New Caledonia, Suva in Fiji, then Auckland in New Zealand, while "I-29" went to Sydney, Australia.

On 11 May, "I-22", "I-24", "I-27" and "I-28" were ordered to proceed to the Japanese naval base at Truk Lagoon, in the Caroline Islands, to each receive a "Ko-hyoteki" class midget submarine.Gill, George Hermon (1968). "Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945", p 61] "I-28" failed to reach Truk; on 17 May the American submarine USS "Tautog" torpedoed her while "I-28" was traveling on the surface . [Gill, George Hermon (1968). "Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945", pp 61–62] The three remaining submarines left Truk on approximately 20 May for a point south of the Solomon Islands.Gill, George Hermon (1968). "Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945", p 62] An explosion in her midget's battery compartment that killed the midget's navigator and injured the commander forced "I-24" to return the next day.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 164] The midget submarine intended for "I-28" replaced the damaged midget.


The Naval Officer-in-Charge of Sydney Harbour at the time of the attack was Rear Admiral Gerard Muirhead-Gould RN. [Carruthers, Steven (2006). "Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942", p 30] On the night of the attack, the following major vessels were present in Sydney Harbour: Heavy cruisers USS "Chicago" and HMAS "Canberra", cruiser HMAS "Adelaide", destroyer USS "Perkins", destroyer tender USS "Dobbin", auxiliary minelayer HMAS "Bungaree", corvettes HMAS "Whyalla", HMAS "Geelong", and HMIS "Bombay", armed merchant cruisers HMS "Kanimbla" and HMAS "Westralia", and Netherlands submarine "K-IX". [Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", pp 193–194] A converted ferry, HMAS "Kuttabul", was alongside at Garden Island where she served as a temporary barracks for sailors transferring between ships. The Hospital Ship "Oranje" was also in the harbour, but departed an hour before the attack. [Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 190]

Harbour defences

The static Sydney Harbour defences at the time of the attack consisted of eight indicator loops: six outside the harbour, one between North Head and South Head, and one between South Head and Middle Head, as well as a partially constructed anti-submarine boom net between George's Head on Middle Head and Green Point on Inner South Head. [Stevens, David (2005). "A Critical Vulnerability", pp 192–194] The central section of the net was complete and support piles were in place to the west, but gaps up to 400 metres (1,300 ft) wide remained on either side.Gill, George Hermon (1968). "Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945", p 65] Stevens, David (2005). "A Critical Vulnerability", p 193] Material shortages, not lack of interest, prevented the completion of the boom net prior to the attack.Stevens, David (2005). "A Critical Vulnerability", p 194] On the day of the attack the six outer indicator loops were inactive; two were not functioning and there were too few trained personnel to man both the inner and outer loop monitoring stations.Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 6] [Carruthers, Steven (2006). "Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942", p 177] The North Head – South Head indicator loop had been giving faulty signals since early 1940, leading to its data being ignored. [Fullford, Richard (1994). "We Stood And Waited", p 190]

Harbour defence craft included: the anti-submarine vessels HMAS "Yandra" and HMAS "Bingera"; the auxiliary minesweepers HMAS "Goonambee" and HMAS "Samuel Benbow"; pleasure launches converted to channel patrol boats (and armed with depth charges), namely HMAS "Yarroma", HMAS "Lolita", HMAS "Steady Hour", HMAS "Sea Mist", HMAS "Marlean", and HMAS "Toomaree", and four unarmed auxiliary patrol boats. [Gill, George Hermon (1968). "Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945", p 66; Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 194]


The Japanese navy had used five "Ko-hyoteki" class midget submarines in an unsuccessful operation against US battleships during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Still, the navy hoped that upgrades to the submarines, intensified crew training, and the selection of a less well defended target would lead to better results and an increased chance for the crews of the midgets to return alive from their mission. Therefore, on 16 December 1941 the navy initiated plans for a second midget submarine operation.Carruthers, Steven (2006). "Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942", p 58]

The plans called for two simultaneous attacks against Allied naval vessels in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific. These attacks were intended as diversions ahead of the attack on Midway Island in the North Pacific, with the Japanese hoping to convince the Allies that they intended to attack to the south or west of their conquests. [Morison, Samuel Eliot (1949). "History of United States Naval Operations in World War II", p 68] Eleven submarines of the 8th Submarine Squadron, the five submarines of the Western Attack Group in the Indian Ocean, and the six submarines of the Eastern Attack Group in the Pacific were to carry out the two attacks. The submarine groups were to select a suitable port of attack based on their own reconnaissance. The Western Attack Group selected the port of Diégo-Suarez in Madagascar. [Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 162] This attack, which occurred at nightfall on 30 May and resulted in the damaging of the battleship HMS "Ramillies" and the sinking of the tanker "British Loyalty", came 22 days after the British captured the port from Vichy France at the beginning of the Battle of Madagascar.Gill, George Hermon (1968). "Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945", p 65]

The four potential targets for the Eastern Attack Group were Nouméa, Suva, Auckland, and Sydney. "I-21" and "I-29" were sent to select the final target, with "I-29" sailing to Sydney. On the evening of 16 May, "I-29" fired on the 5,135 ton Russian merchant vessel "Wellen", convert|30|mi|km from Newcastle, New South Wales. Although "Wellen" escaped with minimal damage, the Allies halted shipping between Sydney and Newcastle for 24 hours while aircraft and all available anti-submarine ships from Sydney, including Dutch Light Cruiser HNLMS "Tromp", Australian Destroyer HMAS "Arunta" and US Destroyer USS "Perkins", searched unsuccessfully for the submarine. Muirhead–Gould concluded that the submarine had operated alone and had left the area immediately after the attack.Carruthers, Steven (2006). "Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942", p 87]

"I-29"'s Yokosuka E14Y1 (Allied codename "Glen") floatplane made a reconnaissance flight over Sydney on 23 May.Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 62.] A secret radar unit set up in Iron Cove detected the flight, but authorities dismissed its report as a glitch, as the Allied air forces had no aircraft operating over Sydney.Grose, Peter. 2007. "A Very Rude Awakening", pp 63–64.] The aircraft was damaged or destroyed on landing, although its two crew survived.Grose, Peter. 2007. "A Very Rude Awakening", p 64.] They reported the presence of several capital ships, including two battleships or large cruisers, five other large warships, several minor war vessels and patrol boats, and prolific merchant shipping.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", pp 170–171] The report, which the Allied FRUMEL signals intelligence network partially intercepted, resulted in the Japanese navy selecting Sydney as the target.Stevens, David (2005). "A Critical Vulnerability", p 192] The three midget-carrying submarines proceeded to a point approximately convert|35|mi|km northeast of Sydney Heads, where they joined with "I-29" and "I-21".Gill, George Hermon (1968). "Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945", p 64] All five submarines were in position by 29 May.

Midget submarine operation

Final reconnaissance

Before dawn on 29 Mayref|flight| [I] "I-21"'s Glen floatplane performed a final reconnaissance flight over Sydney Harbour with the mission of mapping the locations of the major vessels and of the submarine net. [Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 71.] Carruthers, Steven (2006). "Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942", p 89] Multiple observers spotted the floatplane but mistook it for an American Curtiss Seagull. They therefore raised no alarm until 5:07 am, when it was realised that the only ship in the area carrying Seagulls was the American cruiser "Chicago", which still had her four aircraft onboard.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", pp 189–193] Richmond Air Force Base launched RAAF Wirraway fighters, which failed to locate "I-21" or the floatplane. As a result, the reconnaissance flight did not result in the authorities in Sydney taking any special defence measures. Landing seriously damaged the floatplane, which had to be scuttled, but both aircrew survived.

Plan of attack

Japanese planned to launch the midgets one after the other between 5:20 pm and 5:40 pm, from points 5 to 7 miles (8 to 11 km) outside of Sydney Harbour.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 205] The first midget was to pass through the Heads just after 6:30 pm, but heavy seas delayed her by over an hour. The other two midgets followed at twenty minute intervals and were similarly delayed.

The choice of targets was left up to the midget commanders, with advice that they should primarily target aircraft carriers or battleships, with cruisers as secondary targets.Sasaki, Hankyu. 1942. "Telegraphic Order 3". (Reproduced, in Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 66.)] The midgets were to operate to the east of the Harbour Bridge, although if no suitable targets were to be found in this area they were to move under the Bridge and attack a battleship and large cruiser believed to be in the inner harbour. When the second reconnaissance flyover revealed that the expected British battleship HMS "Warspite" was nowhere to be found, the USS "Chicago" became the priority target. [Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", pgs 75, 79.]

After completing their mission, the midgets were to depart Sydney Harbour and head south for convert|20|nmi|km to the recovery point off Port Hacking.Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 79.] Four of the mother submarines would be waiting in an east-west line 16 kilometres long, with the fifth waiting six kilometres further south.


Midget submarine "M-14", launched from "I-27", was the first to enter Sydney Harbour.Gill, George Hermon (1968). "Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945", p 67] The Middle Head – South Head loop detected it at 8:01 pm, but dismissed the reading due to heavy civilian traffic.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 206] At 8:15 pm, a Maritime Services Board watchman spotted it after the midget passed through the western gap, collided with the Pile Light, then reversed and trapped its stern in the net.Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 105.] The submarine's bow broke the surface and became visible. The watchman rowed towards it to determine what it was and then rowed to the nearby patrol boat HMAS "Yarroma" to report.Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 106.] Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 208] Despite efforts by "Yarroma" to pass on this information, Sydney Naval Headquarters did not receive the report until 9:52 pm.Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 108.] It then dispatched HMA Ships "Yarroma" and "Lolita" to investigate. Upon confirming that the object in the net was a "baby submarine", "Lolita" dropped two depth charges while "Yarroma"'s commander requested permission from Sydney Naval Headquarters to open fire.Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 115.] Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 209] The depth charges failed to detonate, as the water was too shallow for the hydrostatic fuse setting. At 10:35 pm, while "Yarroma" was waiting for permission to fire, and "Lolita" was setting up to deploy a third depth charge, the two crewmen on "M-14" activated one of the submarine's scuttling charge, killing themselves and destroying the submarine's forward section.Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", pp 116–117.]

Muirhead-Gould gave the general alarm, along with orders for ships to take anti-submarine measures, at 10:27 pm; at 10:36 pm he followed with the advice to take precautions against attack, as an enemy submarine might be in the harbour.Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 119.] The first alarm led to Sydney Harbour closing to arrivals and departures, but Muirhead-Gould ordered ferries and other internal traffic to continue, as he believed that having the extra vessels under way at speed within the harbour would help force any submarines to remain submerged.

Midget submarine "M-24"ref|name| [II] was the second to enter the harbour. It crossed the indicator loop undetected at 9:48 pm, and at approximately 10 pm passed through the anti-submarine net by following a Manly ferry.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 210] It passed within 500 metres (1640 ft) to the starboard of USS "Chicago"'s moored position off Garden Island, and was heading on a course roughly parallel to the ship when a "Chicago" searchlight operator spotted it at 10:52 pm by .Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 123.] The "Chicago" opened fire with a convert|5|in|mm|sing=on gun and a quadruple machinegun mount, but failed to inflict significant damage as the weapons could not far enough.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 211] Some of the convert|5|in|mm|sing=on shells hit Fort Denison's Martello Tower and fragments were later found in the suburbs of Cremorne and Mosman.Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 125.] The senior officer aboard "Chicago" ordered the crew to begin preparing for departure, and for USS "Perkins" to begin an anti-submarine screening patrol around the cruiser, orders that the sceptical commander, Captain Howard Bode, temporarily revoked when he arrived back aboard around 11:30 pm. [Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", pgs 127, 133.]

HMA Ships "Whyalla" and "Geelong" also fired upon "M-24" as it fled west towards the Sydney Harbour Bridge, before the midget was able to submerge and escape.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 212] When it returned to periscope depth, the midget found itself west of Fort Denison. It turned and sailed east for about 1 mile (1.8 km), then took up a firing position south-west of Bradley's Head, from where its commander could see "Chicago"'s stern silhouetted against the construction floodlights at Garden Island’s new Captain Cook Graving Dock. [Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", pp 212–214]

Midget submarine "M-21", from "I-22" probably entered the harbour at the same time that USS "Chicago" opened fire on "M-24".Gill, George Hermon (1968). "Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945", p 68] The unarmed auxiliary patrol boat HMAS "Lauriana" spotted "M-21" and illuminated the submarine's conning tower, while sending an alert signal to the Port War Signal Station and the nearby anti-submarine vessel HMAS "Yandra". "Yandra" attempted to ram the submarine, lost contact, regained contact at 11:03 pm, and dropped six depth charges.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 213] At the time of the attack, it was assumed that the depth charges had destroyed or disabled the midget, but "M-21" had survived. Historians believe that the midget took refuge on the harbour floor and waited until the Allied vessels had moved away before it resumed the attack.

At 11:14 pm, Muirhead-Gould ordered all ships to observe blackout conditions.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", pp 213-214] Just after 11.30 pm, he set off on a barge towards the boom net, to make a personal inspection.Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 135] The Admiral reached "Lolita" at about midnight and indicated to her crew that he did not take the reports of enemy submarines seriously, saying: "What are you all playing at, running up and down the harbour dropping depth charges and talking about enemy subs in the harbour? There's not one to be seen." The crew reiterated that a submarine had been seen, but Muirhead-Gould remained unconvinced and before he left, added sarcastically: "If you see another sub, see if the captain has a black beard. I'd like to meet him." [Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 136]

Despite the blackout order, the Garden Island floodlights remained on until 12:25 am. Approximately five minutes later, "M-24" fired the first of its two torpedoes; it delayed firing the second torpedo for several minutes as the midget submarines would lose longitudinal stability immediately after firing a torpedo.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 214] Historians are divided as to the exact paths of the torpedoes relative to USS "Chicago", although all agree that the American cruiser was the intended target. Both torpedoes missed "Chicago", while one torpedo may have also passed close to USS "Perkins"' starboard bow. One of the torpedoes continued underneath Netherlands submarine "K-IX" and HMAS "Kuttabul", then hit the breakwater "Kuttabul" was tied up against.Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 139] The explosion split "Kuttabul" in half and sank her, and damaged "K-IX".Carruthers, Steven (2006). "Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942", p 143] Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 215] The attack killed nineteen Royal Australian Navy and two Royal Navy sailors, and wounded another 10. The explosion shook residences in the area and damaged Garden Island's lights and telecommunications. The other torpedo ran aground on the eastern shore of Garden Island without exploding. "M-24" then dived and moved to leave the harbour.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 216]

A crossing over the indicator loop that was recorded at 1:58 am was initially believed to be another midget submarine entering the harbour, although later analysis showed that the reading indicated an outbound vessel and was therefore most likely represented "M-24"'s exit.Gill, George Hermon, "Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945", p 70] "M-24" did not return to its mother submarine, and its fate remained unknown until 2006.Carruthers, Steven (2006). "Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942", p 189]

Ships were ordered to make for the open ocean. USS "Chicago" left her anchorage at 2:14 am, leaving a sailor behind on the mooring buoy. HMIS "Bombay", HMA Ships "Whyalla" and "Canberra", and USS "Perkins" began their preparations to depart. [Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", pp 153–154.]

Just before 3.00 am, as "Chicago" was leaving the harbour, the lookouts spotted a submarine periscope passing alongside the cruiser.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 218] At 3:01 am, the indicator loop registered an inbound signal. This was "M-21" re-entering Sydney Harbour after recovering from the attack four hours previously. HMS "Kanimbla" fired on "M-21" in Neutral Bay at 3:50 am, and at 5 am, three auxiliary patrol boats —- HMA Ships "Steady Hour", "Sea Mist", and "Yarroma" —- spotted the submarine's conning tower in Taylors Bay. The patrol boats had set their depth charge fuses to 15 metres (49 ft), and when "Sea Mist" passed over where the submarine had just submerged and dropped a depth charge, she had only five seconds to clear the area. The blast damaged "M-21", which inverted and rose to the surface before sinking again.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 219] "Sea Mist" dropped a second depth charge, which damaged one of her two engines in the process and prevented her from making further attacks. "Steady Hour" and "Yarroma" continued the attack, dropping seventeen depth charges on visual sightings and instrument contacts of the midget over the next three and a half hours. At some point during the night, the crew of "M-21" committed suicide.

At 4:40 am, HMAS "Canberra" recorded that the Japanese may have fired torpedoes at her.Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", pp 160–162.] This may have been one of many false alarms throughout the night. However, "M-21" had attempted to fire its two torpedoes but failed because of damage to the bow either from HMAS "Yandra"'s ramming or depth charges, or a possible collision with USS "Chicago", makes it possible that "M-21" attempted to attack the cruiser. The observer aboard "Canberra" may have seen bubbles from the compressed air released to fire the torpedoes.

econdary missions

As per the operation plan, the five mother submarines waited off Port Hacking on the nights of 1 June and 2 June for the midget submarines to return. [Carruthers, Steven (2006). "Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942", pp 88–89] FRUMEL picked up wireless traffic between the five, leading the RAAF to task three Lockheed Hudsons and two Bristol Beauforts with finding the source of the communications. They were unsuccessful. On 3 June Sasaki abandoned hope of recovering the midget submarines, and the submarines dispersed on their secondary missions.

Attacks on allied merchant shipping

Four of the submarines began operations against Allied merchant shipping. "I-21" patrolled north of Sydney, while "I-24" patrolled south of Sydney.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 239] "I-27" began searching off Gabo Island for ships departing Melbourne, and "I-29" traveled to Brisbane. "I-22" left the group, to conduct reconnaissance operations at Wellington and Auckland in New Zealand, and then at Suva in Fiji.

Between 1 June and 25 June, when the four submarines arrived at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands to re-supply before proceeding to Japanese shipyards for maintenance, the four submarines attacked at least seven Allied merchant vessels.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 254] They succeeded in sinking three of these: "Iron Chieftain" by "I-24" on 3 June, "Iron Crown" by "I-27" on 4 June, and "Guatemala" by "I-21" on 12 June. [Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", pgs 241, 244, 253] The first two attacks resulted in 12 and 37 fatalities, though the third attack killed no one. [Carruthers, Steven (2006). "Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942", pgs 191, 193, 199] The attacks forced the authorities to institute changes in merchant traffic; they restricted travel north of Melbourne until they could establish a system of escorted convoys.Stevens, David (2005). "A Critical Vulnerability", p 195] "I-21" was the only submarine to return to Australian waters, where she sank three ships and damaged two others during January and February 1943. [Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", pgs 254, 260–261] In her two deployments, "I-24" sank 44,000 tons of Allied shipping, which made her the most successful Japanese submarine to operate in Australian waters. [Stevens, David (ed.) (2001). "The Royal Australian Navy", opp. p 112]


On the morning of 8 June "I-24" and "I-21" briefly bombarded Sydney and Newcastle.Stevens, David (2005). "A Critical Vulnerability", p 194] Just after midnight, "I-24" surfaced 9 miles (14.4 km) south-south-east of Macquarie Lighthouse.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 247] The submarine's commander ordered the gun crew to target the Sydney Harbour Bridge. They fired ten shells over a four minute period; nine landed in the Eastern Suburbs and one landed in water.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 248] Then "I-24" crash dived, foiling attempts by coastal artillery batteries to retaliate. [Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", pp 248–249] Only one shell detonated, and the only injuries it inflicted were cuts and fractures from falling bricks or broken glass. [Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 249] Lt George Cantello, a United States Army Air Forces pilot based at Bankstown Airport, was ordered into the air, but he was killed when engine failure caused his Airacobra to crash in a paddock at Hammondville."P-400 Serial Number ?", Pacific Wreck Database] In 1988, following efforts by residents and the US Consulate in Sydney, Hammondville established a memorial park in his honor.

At 2:15 am, "I-21" shelled Newcastle, from 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) north–east of Stockton Beach.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 250] She fired 34 shells over a sixteen minute period, eight of them star shells. Again, only a single Japanese shell detonated, in the middle of an empty park. Consequently there were no fatalities and only light damage to property. Fort Scratchley returned fire —— the only time an Australian land fortification has fired on an enemy warship during wartime — but the submarine escaped unscathed. [Vale, Dana (2002). "Fort Scratchley Dedication Dinner" [speech] ] Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 251]


The attack on Sydney Harbour ended in failure on both sides, and revealed flaws in both the Allied defences and the Japanese tactics. During the primary attack the Japanese lost all three midget submarines in exchange for the sinking of a single barracks ship. The subsequent operations were no more successful as the five large Japanese submarines sank only three merchant ships and caused minimal property damage during the two bombardments. The performance of the Allied defenders was equally poor. The lack of damage in Sydney Harbour was due, at best, to "a combination of good luck and aggressive counter-attack".

The main impact of the midget submarine attack and subsequent operations was psychological; dispelling any belief that Sydney was immune to Japanese attack and highlighting Australia's proximity to the Pacific War.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 225] Gill, George Hermon (1968). "Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945", p 74]

There was no official inquiry into the attacks, despite demand from some sections of the media. The reason was concern that an inquiry could lead to defeatism and reduce faith in John Curtin's government, particularly after the damaging inquiry into Australian defences that had followed the Japanese aerial attack on Darwin three months earlier. [Carruthers, Steven (2006). "Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942", pgs 169, 176]

Failures in Allied defences

The Allies failed to respond adequately to the multiple warnings of Japanese activity off the east coast of Australia prior to the attack; they simply ignored the warnings or explained them away. They attributed the unsuccessful attack on the freighter "Wellen" on 16 May to a single submarine and assumed it had departed Australian waters immediately after the attack.Carruthers, Steven (2006). "Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942", p 174] The first reconnaissance flight went unnoticed, and although FRUMEL intercepted the report and distributed it on 30 May, Muirhead-Gould apparently did not react. New Zealand naval authorities intercepted radio chatter between the Japanese submarines on 26 May and 29 May. Although they could not decrypt these transmissions, radio direction finding indicated that a submarine or submarines were approaching Sydney. The Allies considered dispatching an anti-submarine patrol in response to the 29 May fix, but were unable to do so as all anti-submarine craft were already committed to protecting a northbound troop convoy.Stevens, David (2005). "A Critical Vulnerability", p 192] The only response to the second reconnaissance flight on 29 May 1942 was to launch a group of search planes.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 193] No other defence measures were put into place. Although the midget attack on Diego Suarez in Madagascar occurred on the morning of 31 May (Sydney time), the Allies sent no alert to other command regions, as the belief was that Vichy French forces had launched the attack. [Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 198]

Historians have questioned the competence of the senior Allied officers. Muirhead-Gould had been hosting a dinner party on the night of the attack, and one of the main guests was the senior officer of American forces in Sydney Harbour, Captain Howard Bode of USS "Chicago". [Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 87.] Both officers were sceptical that any attack was taking place.Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", pgs 135.] Muirhead-Gould arrived aboard HMAS "Lolita" at approximately midnight; an action he describes as attempting to learn about the situation, although members of "Lolita"'s crew later recounted that when Muirhead-Gould came aboard, he immediately chastised the patrol boat's skipper and crew, and quickly dismissed their report. [Carruthers, Steven (2006). Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942, p 136] Junior officers of "Chicago" offered similar descriptions of Bode after he returned on board. Members of both crews later claimed that Muirhead-Gould and Bode were intoxicated. [Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", pp 133-135.] It was only after the destruction of HMAS "Kuttabul" that both officers began to take the attack seriously. [Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", pgs 142-143.]

During the attack, there were several delays between events and responses to them. Over two hours passed between "M-14" being observed in the boom net and Muirhead-Gould's first order for ships to commence anti-submarine actions.Gill, George Hermon (1968). "Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945", p 72] It took another two hours to mobilize the auxiliary patrol boats, which did not leave their anchorage for a further hour. Part of this delay was due to a lack of effective communications.Gill, George Hermon (1968). "Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945", p 73] None of the auxiliary patrol craft in the harbour had radio communications so all instructions and reports came from signal lights via the Port War Signal Station or Garden Island, or by physical communication via launches.Carruthers, Steven (2006). "Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942", p 176] In Muirhead-Gould preliminary report on the attack stated that the Port War Signal Station was not designed for the volume of communications traffic the attack caused. [Muirhead-Gould (1942). Reproduced in Carruthers, Steven (2006). "Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942", p 244] Telephone communications with Garden Island were unreliable during the early part of the attack, and then the first torpedo explosion disabled them completely.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 211] The need to keep information secret may also have contributed to the delays and the defenders' scepticism.Fullford, Richard (1994). "We Stood And Waited", pp 194–195] As the auxiliary patrol boat crews, the indicator loop staff, and other personnel manning defensive positions would have been outside of 'need to know' and would not have been informed about any of the incidents prior to the attack, they would not have been alert, contributing to the disbelief demonstrated in the early hours of the attack.

Flaws in Japanese tactics

The main flaw in the Japanese plans was the use of midget submarines for the primary attack. Midget submarines were originally intended to operate during fleet actions. The idea was that they would be released from modified seaplane carriers to run amok through the enemy fleet, sinking Allied vessels engaging the Japanese surface vessels.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 68] This concept went out of favour as changing Japanese naval thinking and experience led to recognition that naval warfare would centre around carrier-supported aerial combat. As a result, the midget program's focus changed to the infiltration of enemy harbours, where they would attack vessels at anchor.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 71] This concept failed completely during the Attack on Pearl Harbor when the midgets had no effect, and tying up 11 large submarines for six weeks in support of further midget submarine attacks on Sydney and Diego Suarez proved a waste of resources. Moreover, the failure at Sydney and Diego Suarez demonstrated that the improvements to the midget submarines made after Pearl Harbor had not increased the overall impact of the midget program.Carruthers, Steven (2006). "Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942", p 58] Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 291] The modifications had various effects. The ability to man and deploy the midgets while the mother ships were submerged prevented the Army coastal radars from detecting the mother submarines. However, the submarines were still difficult to control, unstable, and prone to surfacing or diving uncontrollably.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 70] These manoeuvrability issues contributed to "M-14"'s entanglement in the anti-submarine net, and the repeated detection of "M-21" and "M-24".

Beyond the use of the unreliable midgets, historians have identified areas in the plan of attack where the Japanese could have done significantly more damage. If the Japanese midget submarines had conducted a simultaneous, co-ordinated attack rather than the piecemeal assaults, they would have overwhelmed the defences.Fullford, Richard (1994). "We Stood And Waited", p 188] A chance for more damage came following the destruction of "Kuttabul", when several naval vessels headed to sea, including USS "Chicago", USS "Perkins", Netherlands submarine "K-IX", HMAS "Whyalla", and HMIS "Bombay".Gill, George Hermon (1968). "Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945", p 70] The five mother submarines were already en route to the Port Hacking recovery position, and although Sasaki's plan at Pearl Harbor had been to leave some submarines at the harbour mouth to pick off fleeing vessels, for some unknown reason he did not repeat this tactic. [Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 155.]

USS "Chicago"'s survival

Several factors beyond the control of any of the combatants contributed to the survival of USS "Chicago". At the time of "M-24"'s attack on "Chicago", the latter had spent some time preparing to depart Sydney Harbour, and although still moored and stationary, was producing large volumes of white smoke as the boilers warmed up.Carruthers, Steven (2006). "Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942", p 137.] This smoke, streaming to the stern under the influence of the wind, and contrasting against the dark, low-lying cloud, may have given the impression that "Chicago" was moving, causing "M-24" to lead the target when firing its torpedoes, and consequently sending its torpedoes across the bow. [Carruthers, Steven (2006). "Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942", pp 137–139.] Another factor that may have influenced "Chicago"'s survival was the extinguishing of Garden Island's floodlights minutes before "M-24" fired its first torpedo, impeding targeting.

Bombardment impact

The bombardments failed to cause significant physical damage, but had a major psychological impact on the residents of Sydney and Newcastle. Due to the inaccuracy of the submarines' range-finding equipment, coupled with the unstable firing platform of a submarine at sea, specific targeting was impossible.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 250] The intention of the submarine bombardment was to frighten the population of the target area.

The failure of the majority of the shells to detonate may have had various causes. The bricks and mortar of the buildings the shells hit may have failed to trigger the fuses of the armour piercing rounds the submarines carried to use against steel ship hulls.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 249] Sea water may have degraded the shells, which the Japanese had stored in the submarines' deck lockers for several weeks. The age of the shells may also have been a factor; some of the shells recovered from the Newcastle bombardment turned out to be of English manufacture, and to date to the start of World War I.Carruthers, Steven (2006). "Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942", p 197]

In Sydney, fear of an impending Japanese invasion caused people to move west, causing housing prices in the Eastern Suburbs to drop, while those beyond the Blue Mountains rose significantly. [Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 258] The attack also led to a significant increase in the membership of volunteer defence organisations, and strengthening of defences in Sydney Harbour and Port Newcastle. [Nichols, Robert (2006). "The Night the War Came to Sydney", p 28–29]


The papers did not publish news of the submarine attack until Tuesday 2 June, as most of the attack had occurred after the newspapers went to press on the morning of 1 June.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 225] Instead, Monday's front page carried news of Operation Millennium, the Royal Air Force's first 1,000-bomber raid, though several newspapers included a small interior article mentioning the final reconnaissance flyover. The Federal Censor ordered total censorship of the events, with the result that the official statement on Monday afternoon simply stated that the Allies had destroyed three submarines, and described the loss of Kuttabul and the 21 deaths as the loss of "one small harbour vessel of no military value.". [Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 187.] [Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 156.] Smith's Weekly finally released the real story on 6 June, and follow-up material in the 13 June issue caused more political damage, leading the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) to attempt to charge the newspaper with releasing defence information. [Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", pgs 212, 223–227.]

It was several days before the RAN could recover the 21 dead sailors aboard "Kuttabul"Carruthers, Steven (2006). "Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942", p 151] On 3 June, Muirhead-Gould and over 200 RAN personnel attended a burial ceremony. Then on 1 January 1943, the RAN commissioned the Navy base at Garden Island as HMAS "Kuttabul" in commemoration of the ferry and the lives lost.Elbourne, LEUT Sean (2006). "Wonderful Kuttabul"]

The Australians recovered the bodies of the four Japanese crew of the two midget submarines sunk in Sydney Harbour and had them cremated at Rookwood Cemetery. For the cremation the Allies draped the Japanese flag over each coffin and rendered full naval honours. These honours drew criticism, but Muirhead-Gould defended his actions as respecting the courage of the four submariners, regardless of their origin. [Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 230] The allies also hoped that the Japanese Government would notice the respect paid to the sailors and improve the conditions Australian prisoners-of-war were experiencing in Japanese internment camps.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 231] The Japanese authorities noted the funeral service but this did not lead to any major improvement in conditions for Australian POWs. Following the use of the midget submariners' funeral by the Japanese for propaganda purposes, the Australian High Command forbade future similar funerals for enemy personnel.Warner, Peggy & Seno, Sadao (1986). "The Coffin Boats", p 130]

An exchange of Japanese and Allied diplomatic personnel stranded in the opposing nations occurred in August 1942, which allowed Tatsuo Kawai, the Japanese ambassador to Australia, to return home with the ashes of the four Japanese submariners. When the exchange ship "Kamakura Maru" arrived in Yokohama, several thousand people were present to honour the four men.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 232–233]

The two main targets of the attack, USS "Chicago" and HMAS "Canberra", were both lost within the next year: "Canberra" sinking on 9 August 1942 during the Battle of Savo Island, and "Chicago" on 30 January 1943 following the Battle of Rennell Island. [Gill, George Hermon (1968). "Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945", pgs 150–153, 273] None of the Japanese submarines involved in the attack survived the war. USS "Charrette" and USS "Fair" sank "I-21" on 4 February 1944 off the Marshall Islands. An American torpedo boat sank "I-22" on 25 December 1942 off New Guinea. An American patrol craft sank "I-24" on 10 June 1943 near the Aleutian Islands. HMS "Paladin" and HMS "Petard" sank "I-27" on 12 February 1943 off the Maldives. Lastly, USS "Sawfish" sank "I-29" on 26 July 1944 in the Philippines. [Carruthers, Steven (2006). "Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942", p 216]

"M-14" and "M-21"

The Allies located and recovered "M-21" on 3 June and "M-14" on 8 June. [Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", pgs 209, 219.] Although both were damaged during the attack, it was possible to assemble a complete submarine from the two vessels.Gill, George Hermon (1968). "Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945", p 72] The centre section of the rebuilt submarine was mounted on a trailer and taken on a 4,000 kilometre (2,500 mi) tour throughout southern New South Wales, Victoria, and western South Australia. [Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 250.] The purpose of the tour was twofold; it allowed Australians to see a Japanese midget submarine and raised A£28,000 for the Naval Relief Fund and other naval charities. [Warner, Peggy & Seno, Sadao (1986). "The Coffin Boats", p 169] The submarine arrived at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra on 28 April 1943, flying the White Ensign and a paying-off pennant. The submarine was originally displayed outside the museum in three separate pieces,Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 251.] but was moved inside in the 1980s due to heavy vandalism; on one occasion in 1966, a group of university students painted it bright yellow in response to The Beatles' song "Yellow Submarine."Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", pp 253–255.] The composite submarine was restored and remains on display inside the Memorial as part of a permanent exhibition on the attack, next to the recovered wheelhouse of HMAS "Kuttabul". The conning tower from "M-21" is on display at the Royal Australian Navy Heritage Centre on Garden Island. Leftover material from "M-21" was melted down and made into souvenirs. [Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 253.]


Over the 64 years following the disappearance of "M-24" after the attacks, more than 50 people approached the Royal Australian Navy claiming to have found the submarine. All of these claims were found to be false.McNicoll, D (2006). "Nine's midget submarine scoop scuttled".] One early theory about the midget's fate was that it was damaged or destroyed, along with "M-21", in or around Taylors Bay, which would account for reports from HMAS "Steady Hour" and HMAS "Yarroma" of multiple submarines during their three-hour effort against "M-21". [Gill, George Hermon (1968). "Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945", p 71] A second theory was that the midget attempted to return to the mother submarines but exhausted its battery power before reaching the Port Hacking recovery point and would therefore be outside and to the south of Sydney Heads. The third theory was that the midget's crew decided to avoid endangering the five larger submarines during the recovery process, and either ran straight out to sea or headed north.Jenkins, David (1992). "Battle Surface", p 217] Carruthers, Steven (2006). "Japanese Submarine Raiders 1942", p 184]

A group of seven amateur scuba divers solved the mystery of "M-24's" fate in November 2006, when they found a small submarine sitting upright on the seabed, approximately 5 kilometres (2.7 naut miles) from Bungan Head, off Sydney's Northern Beaches."Found it!" (2006). ["60 Minutes" segment] ] Commander Shane Moore RAN, the officer responsible for the Navy's heritage collection, confirmed that the wreck was "M-24" after viewing footage from multiple dives, along with measurements the group had taken. The wreck had several bullet holes in it, most likely from "Chicago"'s quadruple machinegun mount. The divers and the RAN kept secret the coordinates of the wreck. Defence Minister Brendan Nelson then promised to have the wreck protected as a war grave. The wreck was gazetted on 1 December 2006 as a heritage site."M24 Japanese Midget Submarine wreck site", New South Wales Heritage Office] The government has established a 500 metre (1,650 ft) exclusion zone around the wreck site, and any vessels entering the zones are liable to fines under New South Wales law of up to A$1.1 million, and additional fines and confiscation of equipment under Commonwealth law.Grose, Peter (2007). "A Very Rude Awakening", p 255.] Shore- and buoy- mounted surveillance cameras and a sonar listening device further protect the site.

On 7 February 2007, RAN Vice Admiral Russ Shalders and JMSDF Admiral Eiji Yoshikawa presided over a ceremony honouring "M-24"'s crew held aboard HMAS "Newcastle" while Admiral Yoshikawa was visiting the Royal Australian Navy.Wurth, Bob (2007). "Fallen submariners honored in Australia"] Relatives of the midget submarines' crews, one of the survivors from "Kuttabul", and dignitaries and military personnel from Australia and Japan attended another ceremony on 6 August 2007 at HMAS "Kuttabul" Naval Base.McNicoll, D.D. (2007). "Ceremony ends missing sub saga"] HMAS "Melbourne" then carried relatives of "M-24"'s crew to the wreck site where they poured sake into the sea before being presented with sand taken from the seabed around the submarine.


Some sources give the date of the reconnaissance flight as 30 May.

As this midget submarine was the only one not recovered, its specific designation is unknown, and is referred to differently in the various sources. Gill refers to it as "Midget A", Jenkins refers to it as "Ban's midget" (after the midget's commander, Sub–Lieutenant Katsuhisa Ban), and Carruthers refers to it as "I-24", naming it after the mother submarine. Numerous sources discussing the 2005 and 2006 findings (such as newspaper articles) refer to it as M-24 or M24. This article uses the "M-24" designation for consistency with the identified midget submarines and to avoid confusion with the mother submarine.



* cite book |last=Gill |first=George Hermon |title=Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945 |origyear=1968
url=|format=PDF|accessdate=2007-08-07 |series=Australia in the War of 1939–1945, Series 2, Volume II |publisher=Australian War Memorial |location=Canberra |id=NLA registry number Aus 68–1798 |pages= |chapter=Australia's Coast Raided |chapterurl=


External links

* [ Found It!] - the "60 Minutes" segment revealing the discovery of "M-24"
* [ Australia's War 1939-1945: Australia Attacked - Sydney Harbour] Overview of the events. Includes an animation showing the events immediately prior to and during the attack.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужен реферат?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Sydney Harbour defences — Sydney Harbour was protected by coastal batteries and other fixed defences from the early 1800s until the 1960s. These defences were constructed to protect the Australian city of Sydney from attack by enemy warships and submarines. [Australian… …   Wikipedia

  • Sydney Harbour anti-submarine boom net — The anti submarine boom net was an anti torpedo and submarine defence net that was located in Sydney Harbour during World War II. It spanned the entire length of the harbour from Green Point, Watsons Bay to Georges Head, on the northern side of… …   Wikipedia

  • Sydney Harbour New Year's Eve Fireworks — infobox television show name = Sydney New Year s Eve caption = The 2006 07 Sydney New Year s Eve celebrations format = New Year s Eve television special runtime = Family Fireworks: 8:30pm ndash; 9:30pm (60 mins) Midnight Fireworks: 11:30pm ndash; …   Wikipedia

  • Sydney Observatory — The observatory photographed in 1874. The obser …   Wikipedia

  • Sydney, Nova Scotia — Infobox Settlement official name = Sydney other name = native name = nickname = The Steel City settlement type = Community motto = imagesize = 200px image caption = Downtown Sydney, Nova Scotia flag size = image seal size = image shield = shield… …   Wikipedia

  • Attaque dans la baie de Sydney — Le Kuttabul après l attaque japonaise Informations générales Date du 31 mai au 8 juin 1942 Lieu port de Sydney …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Attaque sur la baie de Sydney — Attaque dans la baie de Sydney Attaque dans la baie de Sydney Le Kuttabul après l attaque japonaise Informations générales Date du 31 mai au 8 juin 1942 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Tourism in Sydney — Sydney received 7.8 million domestic visitors and 2.5 million international visitors in 2004. [Tourism NSW. 2004. [ Tourism… …   Wikipedia

  • Public transport in Sydney — Sydney and its surrounding regions is served by an extensive network of public transport services. According to the New South Wales State Plan, the state has Australia s largest public transport system. Indeed, in the 1920s, Sydney also boasted… …   Wikipedia

  • Admiralty House, Sydney — Admiralty House is the official Sydney residence of the Governor General of Australia. It is located in Kirribilli, on the northern foreshore of Sydney Harbour adjacent to Kirribilli House, which is the Sydney residence of the Prime Minister. The …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”